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Warning signs to watch for when job hunting in a recession

Warning signs to watch for when job hunting in a recession


The job market can be especially tough during a recession or any period of economic uncertainty, and unfortunately some see this as an opportunity to take advantage of others.

If you’re searching for a job, you could be feeling added pressure and that you’re facing tough competition. But in this environment, it’s important to make sure a job is worth your time and effort in applying – especially when you want to make a move on it fast.

Here are three warning signs to watch out for when you’re weighing up a job to ensure you are not caught out by hidden pitfalls.

  1. Advertisers that try to sell you a course or service
    An advertiser should not be using your personal details to try to make money out of you, warns employment law specialist Alison Baker from Hall and Wilcox Lawyers.

    She says advertisers that take your job application, but then contact you about courses or resume services they are offering, could be in breach of the Privacy Act.

    “They have asked you for your details to assess your suitability as a candidate but are then using those details for a different purpose,” Baker says.

    She says if you’ve applied for a job, you have the right to contact the advertiser and ask for your information to be deleted from their system.

    You can also report them to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
  2. Work from home opportunities that come with hefty setup costs
    Be wary of forking out money for business plans or starter kit materials for a job. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch website warns of scammers posing as employers who don’t deliver on what they promise, or using excuses such as incorrect set up to refuse to pay you what they promised.

    There may be some circumstances where it’s reasonable for an employer to expect you to buy certain specialised equipment (which you’d likely be able to claim as a tax deduction). But it’s usually in the business’s own security interests to provide a laptop and connect you to their IT system, for example.

    It’s one thing to agree to use your own computer and phone, but Baker says being asked to hand over money, or bank details, should ring alarm bells.
  3. Unpaid trial work
    There are very few instances where unpaid trial work is legal, says Baker. It’s only lawful when it’s necessary for that person to be able to demonstrate they have the specialist skills needed for the job.

    If it is justified, an hour or one shift with a supervisor should be enough to demonstrate your competency. In most cases, an employer will instead put you on a probationary period of three to six months.

    Baker says there is protection within the Unfair Dismissal jurisdiction for employers whose employees who don’t live up to their expectations, making most unpaid trial requests unwarranted.

    “Someone who has their employment terminated within the first six months (or 12 months if working for a small employer) is not eligible to bring an unfair dismissal claim,” says Baker.

    Being expected to work for free may be an indicator of other questionable workplace practices, so you need to ask yourself if the job is worth the risk.

How to tell if an opportunity is genuine

Baker says a legitimate hiring process should give you a good idea of what the job involves. Personal information you provide should only be relevant to the selection criteria and enable an employer to assess your suitability for the job. A company doesn’t need to know your bank details until they’re putting you on the payroll.

Baker says as the applicant, you hold the power around what information you hand over. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.

“People are very vulnerable at the moment, because it’s a tough job market,” Baker acknowledges. “But it’s worthwhile asking the questions now and knowing what you’re applying for, rather than finding yourself in something you weren’t expecting and having to deal with it later.”

What can you do?

If you suspect that an opportunity is fraudulent or not genuine:

  • Report it to SEEK – so we can remove any fraudulent ads and alert other job seekers or advertisers.
  • Report it to the ACCC – who will investigate misleading job and business opportunities.

Navigating the job market can feel especially tough right now, particularly when you’re facing time pressure to find a new role. But by watching out for these red flags, you’ll be able to focus your time and energy on pursuing genuine opportunities that are right for you.


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